Classical music

The fall of Daniel Barenboim

23 March 2019 9:00 am

A few years ago, I hooked up with a BBC team in Berlin to record a programme with Daniel Barenboim.…

Scala Radio is a real threat to Radio 2

14 March 2019 9:00 am

It’s not surprising given the way that electronic communication has taken over so much of our daily business, minimising human…

Sarah Tynan, Nicholas Lester and Andrew Shore in ENO's new Merry Widow. Photo: Clive Barda

Cringingly vulgar, brainless and lacking heart: ENO’s Merry Widow reviewed

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Garrick Ohlsson is one of the finest pianists of his generation. Why, then, was the Wigmore Hall not much more…

Left: cartoon of Hector Berlioz published in the Wiener Theaterzeitung in 1846. Right: the composer in 1863, aged 59

David Cairns explains how we learned to love Berlioz

2 March 2019 9:00 am

For a century the visionary composer was seen as a freak, but finally, 150 years after his death, his time has come

Opera North's Rite of Spring shows the advantages of confining the music to the pit

2 March 2019 9:00 am

It was Stravinsky himself who suggested that, in order to preserve its difficulty, the opening bassoon solo of The Rite…

World-class: Symphony Orchestra of India in its tropical Barbican in Mumbai

Meet India's first – and only – professional western orchestra

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Ahead of its first ever UK tour, Richard Bratby meets the trio behind India’s first – and only – professional western orchestra

King's College Choir rehearsing for the Christmas Eve 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols'. Photo credit: Geoff Robinson Photography / REX / Shutterstock

All hail Mrs C.F. Alexander, author of 'Once in Royal David's City'

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In this 200th anniversary of the birth of Mrs C.F. Alexander, author of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, all of…

It's Christmas. You don't want Götterdämmerung. You want a waltz-operetta

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Grade: A– 1898: two Parisiennes and a housemaid secretly invite each other’s partners to the Paris Opera ball and… c’mon,…

RLPO and the NDR Radiophilharmonie performing Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral. Photo: Liverpool Philharmonic / Mark McNulty

Britten’s War Requiem almost sounded like a masterpiece – but it isn’t, is it?

17 November 2018 9:00 am

‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ We’ve heard a lot, lately, of the knell that tolls through the…

A major modernist hiding in plain sight: composer Ennio Morricone at 91

‘Darmstadt taught me how to compose’: Ennio Morricone interviewed

27 October 2018 9:00 am

For all his commercial success, Ennio Morricone is a modernist of uncompromising seriousness, as Richard Bratby finds out

Wilhelm Furtwängler shaking hands with Hitler after a concert in 1939. Photo: Ullstein Bild/ Getty Images

The truth about Wilhelm Furtwängler

20 October 2018 9:00 am

The morning after the first night of Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides in May 1995, I received a call from Otto…

Kirill Petrenko conducting the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2018 Proms. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The gentle side of Bruckner: Rotterdam Philharmonic's Prom reviewed

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The lady behind me on Kensington Gore clearly felt that she owed her friend an apology: ‘It’s Bruckner. I don’t…

Jozsefs Lendvai and Lendvay with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Proms. Image: BBC/Chris Christodoulos

The Budapest Festival Orchestra makes other orchestras look routine and oafish

1 September 2018 9:00 am

Looney Tunes was always at its best when soundtracked by a Hungarian gypsy dance. (Watch ‘Pigs in a Polka’ if…

An exalted experience even without a convincing central character: Siegfried in Edinburgh reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

There’s one big problem with Wagner’s Siegfried, and the clue’s in the name. None of Wagner’s mature works hangs so…

Before the dawn: Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Dan Godfrey, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Sir Charles Stanford, seated. Standing: Sir Edward German and Sir Hubert Parry. Bournemouth Centenary Festival, 1910

Music's Brexit

11 August 2018 9:00 am

Only by ignoring European taste, and daring to be vulgar, did British music finally come of age, argues Richard Bratby

An embarrassing and misshapen dud: Opera Holland Park’s Isabeau reviewed

21 July 2018 9:00 am

I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact moment when it became impossible to take Mascagni’s Isabeau seriously. It wasn’t when…

The virtuoso virtue-signallers of classical music

7 July 2018 9:00 am

All my life I’ve wanted to compose music, and now I’ve done it. I’ve written a sonata for solo flute…

Pianist Clifford Curzon, composer Sir Arthur Bliss and musicologist Hans Keller at the very first Leeds International Piano Contest. Photo: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images

You vote for my pupil, I’ll vote for yours – the truth about music competitions

23 June 2018 9:00 am

A young Korean, 22 years old, won the Dublin International Piano Competition last month. Nothing unusual about that. Koreans and…

Detail of Cantata ‘Es ist das Heil’, BWV9

I don't get why people worship Bach

16 June 2018 9:00 am

I don’t get Johann Sebastian Bach. I mean, I get that he was good — no Mozart, sure, but definitely…

Garsington makes as good a case as you can for Strauss's frothy Capriccio

9 June 2018 9:00 am

‘Is there an end [to this opera] that is not trivial?’ asks the Countess in her final bars of Richard…

Cold and confusing: Garsington's Die Zauberflöte reviewed

9 June 2018 9:00 am

The picnic hamper’s open, the bubbly is chilled, and country house opera is starting to eat itself. When you arrive…

One of the last remaining all-boys' choirs in Britain, St George's Chapel Choir, which sang in the recent royal wedding in Windsor

I dread the extinction of boys’ choirs

2 June 2018 9:00 am

One by one, cathedrals have succumbed to the inevitable. In blazes of publicity, with front-page photographs of girls in cassocks…

How does David Matthews get away with writing symphonies with tunes in them?

19 May 2018 9:00 am

‘All fish in flood and fowl of flight/ Be mirthful now and make melody’ writes the poet William Dunbar in…

How hospices make you think differently about life

19 May 2018 9:00 am

The timing of the Today programme’s series about hospices could not have been more apt, coming as it did so…

Dudamel's Amériques made The Rite of Spring sound like Einaudi

12 May 2018 9:00 am

Apparently it’s called ‘expectation management’. Pollux, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s new work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, takes its name from…